Ketsui: Death Label
ďApproach your target and attack. Your mission starts now. Are you ready?Ē
I wasnít sure if a regular bullet hell shooter was possible on the DS, given the systemís smaller screen and even smaller list shooters in its vast game library. Cave and Arika prove that a bullet hell style shooter is quite possible. Ketsui was originally a vertical shooter in the arcade, so it would make sense if the game field was laid across both DS screens. It could work, although the void between screens would be a definite pain on precisely avoiding things. Here the playfield has been squished onto one horizontal screen. This may sound like a change for the worse, but it plays surprisingly well.
I have yet to play the original, but the action here is just as fast and insane as other bullet hell vertical shooters. Actually, this may be even more insane considering that youíre playing a bullet hell shooter on a tiny DS screen. The graphics are good, with the multitude of bullets easy enough to see on the DS screen. The music is great and sounds quite a bit beefier when the DS is connected to better sound system.
On the DS, Ketsui is essentially just a boss rush mode; the regular stages and enemies have been disappointingly sliced out. Only one of the bosses has any kind of support vehicles with it. The bosses are everything youíd expect with huge tanks, massive flying fortresses, a battleship that is floating on sand, and whatever that last boss is. For trivia purposes that may or or may not present themselves in your life, the boss names are Jem & Eni, Sea Horse, Bull Frog, Sphinx, Vinogradov, Jamadhar, Black Draft, Trafalgar, Cinderella Amber, Evaccaneer, and Evaccaneer Doom. Even though this is just a boss rush, for some reason I found it very addicting. I wanted to constantly keep playing to improve my score or try to dodge the ridiculous amount of bullets with losing a less amount of lives.
There are many modes with varying bosses and degrees of difficulty: Novice, Normal, Hard A, Hard B, Hard C, Very Hard, Death Label, Doom Mode, and Extra Mode. Obviously, each mode is more difficult than the last, but with enough practice (there is a Training mode) and earning enough extra lives you just might be able to beat them all. Extra Mode is more like a traditional full shooter stage with smaller enmies to fight, but unlocking it is rather difficult, so only the dedicated players may even get to play the mode, which is a shame. There is a multiplayer mode, but since I only know one person who owns the game (and he only has one copy) I was unable to try it out.
There are two future helicopter super duper gunships to choose from, Type A and Type B, each with four futuristic color palettes of red, blue, green, and purple. Type A shoots its regular bullets in a wide formation, has slower movement, but a faster lock-on. Type B shoots its regular bullets in a straight formation, has faster movement, but a slower lock-on. I hardly ever used the regular bullets when playing, because the lock-on system is so much better. The lets your four support pods lock onto the target which allows you to fly anywhere on the screen to avoid the bullets. Even if youíre behind the boss your lock-on bullets will still be hitting it. Also when firing this way, a large laser beam shoots from the front of the ship, causing extra damage to the boss if you are directly in front of it. The ship moves a little slower when using the lock-on system, but the extra points and ability to be anywhere and still hit the boss far outweighs the cost in speed.
Each future helicopter super gunship also comes equipped with bombs designed to save your life. The bombs clear the screen of enemy bullets and give your ship a brief shield. If you have bombs in stock and get hit, the bombs go off slowing the bossí bullets, but if you get hit again thatís it for that life.
Your score is largely determined by the score chips you collect. When you shoot a boss, score chips come pouring out. The closer your ship is to the boss when siring the larger chips pour out. The chips range from x1 to x5 and add to your score multiplier. Risk reaps high rewards. Kind of. Aside from more difficult modes to unlock, EVAC report is a collection of boss pictures that are seen by unlocking by panels of each image. There are also many developer comic tips that are only in Japanese, so if you canít read it then youíre out of luck. Both can be unlocked by meeting a variety of conditions while playing the game.
The top screen displays the game with the bottom screen showing your score and the number of each multiplier chip collected. Should you want, you can switch the game to the bottom screen and the score to the top. Just donít expect to be able to use the stylus, although Iím not sure why you would want to since stylus on shooters tend to feel cumbersome at times. The game saves all your play data, meaning total time played, how many times you destroyed each boss and cleared each course, the percentage of score chips, among others. The package also contains a master play though DVD, showing you that you will never be as good as this guy.
With the lack of true stages and the intense screen filling difficulty, Ketsui: Death Label is a game that's more for the hardcore shooter fan. Although I am a hardcore shooter fan and had a blast playing this, eventually I started yearning for being able to play more than than just the bosses (because there is more). Now, if only Ketsui can get localized for a North American release I'd be able to afford my own copy. Those eBay prices of $130 are ridiculous.